Education grad earns Rhodes Scholarship

Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life, the adage goes. Mackenzie Martin might add that if you pack your days with the things you love, you’ll never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Given that Martin was recently awarded one of eleven Rhodes Scholarships in Canada this year, her advice might just carry a little extra weight.

“The main thing for me is that I’m doing things I love. Not only am I passionate about the academic programs I’m in, I’m also involved in many things on campus and in the community. I fill up my schedule. As a result, procrastinating is not an option. I find when I’m busy, I get down to my work.”

Martin just completed a combined bachelor of education and bachelor of science in human ecology degree through the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences. She is also graduating with a certificate in interdisciplinary leadership from the Peter Lougheed Leadership College.

While at the University of Alberta, Mackenzie has been involved in many campus and community initiatives. To name a few, she has served on the University of Alberta Senate and volunteered with U School, traveled to the U.S., Netherlands and Japan to pursue research on healthy living environments for older persons, worked as a research assistant in the Department of Human Ecology, and worked with the Office of the Dean of Students to identify the needs of students who parent on campus. She has done all of this and more while maintaining a scholarship-worthy GPA. This fall, Martin will head off to the University of Oxford to commence graduate studies.

Hands-on approach to community engagement

Martin’s hands-on approach to learning and community outreach is not a recent development. Along with her parents, Martin credits her teachers for setting a great example.

“My teachers demonstrated to me that individuals can make a difference in the community. They demonstrated their belief in our ability to be leaders and to make a difference. This was a key component of my interest in becoming involved in the community,” Martin said. “My teachers were a powerful force in my life—they inspired me.”

As an example of inspiration from her K-12 school experience, a teen mother from Braemar School visited Martin’s’s Grade 7 class. Hearing the life experiences of a member of this vulnerable—and stigmatized— population stuck with her. Over the years, Martin has worked with teen parents in the community, such as through tutoring. In 2015, she created the Post-Secondary Possibilities Program for the students of Braemar, which brings young mothers to the U of A, NAIT and NorQuest College to learn about their options for post-secondary education first-hand.

“I’m interested in supporting teen mothers by having them learn about their post-secondary options. To me, this has an impact on two generations. I’m interested in studying this population and what interventions can be implemented in the education system to support them,” Martin said. “I’ve found that the pre- and post-birth periods are an important window of opportunity where teen mothers’ aspirations are high so it’s an important time to support them in achieving their goals.”

Following the golden thread

Martin is involved in both research on youth and on older adults. Martin says her seemingly diverse research interests are actually rooted in a common theme.

“The golden thread of my interests is quality of life and well-being across the life course, so for populations like teen parents and their children, but also older adults” she said

As a next step, Martin will pursue a master of science in evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation at the University of Oxford, with an eye toward a career in academia. As an academic, she hopes to combine her passions for teaching, research, and community service.